Category Archives: Lawyers and social media youtube

California Ethics Opinion reviews advertising restrictions on lawyers when posting and commenting on Facebook and other social media websites

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the 2012 California Formal Ethics Opinion which addresses a lawyer’s obligations when posting on Facebook and other social media websites.  The opinion is Cal. Formal Op. 2012-186 (12/21/12).  The ethics opinion is here: http://ethics.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/9/documents/Opinions/CAL%202012-186%20%2812-21-12%29.pdf

The California State Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct issued a formal ethics opinion with guidelines and ethical restrictions on California attorneys when using social media.  The opinion states that Facebook and other social media advertising is subject to the same Bar Rules as traditional forms of advertising and under those rules, false and misleading advertising is prohibited.  The opinion also states that the determination of whether the comment is a communication subject to the California Bar Rules is whether it is a message or offer “concerning the availability for professional employment”. 

The opinion reviewed and analyzed the following hypothetical facts and comments:

“Attorney has a personal profile page on a social media website. Attorney regularly posts comments about both her personal life and professional practice on her personal profile page. Only individuals whom the Attorney has approved to view her personal page may view this content (in Facebook parlance, whom she has “friended”).  Attorney has about 500 approved contacts or “friends,” who are a mix of personal and professional acquaintances, including some persons whom Attorney does not even know.

In the past month, Attorney has posted the following remarks on her profile page:

1.         ‘Case finally over. Unanimous verdict! Celebrating tonight.’

2.         ‘Another great victory in court today! My client is delighted. Who wants to be next?’

3.         ‘Won a million dollar verdict. Tell your friends and check out my website.’

4.         ‘Won another personal injury case. Call me for a free consultation.’

5.         ‘Just published an article on wage and hour breaks. Let me know if you would like a copy.’

The opinion concludes that comments 1 and 5 would not be a communication “concerning the availability for professional employment” subject to the California Bar Rules; however, comments 2, 3, and 4 would be communications subject to the Bar Rules.  The opinion also states, in a footnote, that the conclusions in the opinion are not limited to Facebook and would include Twitter, social media and other websites.

Bottom line:  As I have said many times in the past, state Bar Ethics Opinions are not binding and are intended only to provide guidance to lawyers; however, this opinion gives a good overview of the requirements of the California Bar Rules when a lawyer posts on social media and other websites.  The California Bar Rules state that the advertising rules apply to communications “concerning the availability of employment”.  The analysis and conclusions in this opinion would arguably apply to lawyers in other states which have the same or similar language, for example, Rule 4-7.11(a) of The Florida’s Bar advertising rules state that: (t)he terms “advertising” and “advertisement” as used in (the Florida Bar rules) refer to all forms of communication seeking legal employment, both written and spoken.”

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Illinois Hearing Board recommends 5 month suspension for lawyer who posted undercover video related to client on Youtube and alleged that the drugs were planted

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent report and recommendation of an Illinois disciplinary hearing board that an Illinois lawyer be suspended for 5 months for posting an undercover video of an alleged drug transaction of his client on Youtube and alleged that the drugs were planted.  The disciplinary case is In re Jesse Raymond Gilsdorf, Commission No. 2012PR00006 (June 4, 2013).  The disciplinary Complaint is here: https://www.iardc.org/12PR0006CM.html and the Board’s Report and Recommendation is here: http://www.iardc.org/HB_RB_Disp_Html.asp?id=10978.    

According to the Report and Recommendation, “the charges of misconduct arose out of  the Respondent knowingly posting on an Internet site, and showing to others, a DVD video he received from the state’s attorney while representing a criminal  defendant.  The video showed the undercover drug transaction between Respondent’s  client and a confidential police source.  The Respondent entitled the video ‘Cops and Task Force Planting Drugs,’ which was false.  By posting the video while his client’s criminal case was pending, Respondent intended to persuade residents of the county that the police or other government officials acted improperly in the prosecution of his client.

The Hearing Board found that the Respondent engaged in the misconduct charged in both counts.  Specifically, he revealed information relating to the representation of a client without the informed consent of his client and without the disclosure being impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation; failed to reasonably consult with the client about the  means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished); made extrajudicial statements that the lawyer reasonably knows will be disseminated by means of public communication and would pose a serious and imminent threat to the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding; engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and engaged in conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.”

The report and recommendation of the hearing board will now be considered by the Illinois disciplinary review board and will ultimately be reviewed by the Illinois Supreme Court for a final disciplinary opinion.

Bottom line: This is another example of the use (or misuse) of social media potentially resulting in a lawyer’s discipline.  Lawyers must be aware of the requirement of maintaining client confidentiality and the risk of making statements that are false about a client’s case as well as the inherent dangers of using social media in the lawyer’s practice.

Be careful out there!

As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

 

 

 

 

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